Gary Thrasher has found migrants on his roof, in his truck, in the shower in his barn. They leave a trail of backpacks and water bottles by the mesquite tree on his land, three miles from the Mexican border.

He and other ranchers often stumble across migrants, dead or alive. He once took a call from neighbours in Hereford, Arizona, who asked him to check out a man who was sleeping under a bush and making their dog bark. “I went out there and his eyeballs were picked out and he was deader than a brick,” he said.

There was no investigation. Border authorities just came and scooped up the body, like roadkill.

The high desert of Arizona is where border politics become a harsh, sometimes sinister experience – one that threatens to unseat two of the most vulnerable House Democrats standing for re-election in November’s midterm elections.

Republicans have identified two neighbouring districts in southern Arizona as their best prospect for picking up seats in the House of Representatives.

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